U.S. Juniors and Senior Championship: Day 9 Recap

Two national champions were crowned today as both GM Hans Niemann and IM Annie Wang clinched victories in the 2021 U.S. Junior Championships, both winning $10,000 scholarships in addition to the first place prize. Meanwhile, GM Larry Christiansen won a critical last round game in the U.S. Senior, forcing a playoff tiebreak tomorrow against GM Gregory Kaidanov. With their victories, Hans and Annie qualified for the 2022 U.S. Championship and U.S. Women’s Championship.

Check out the full replay of live coverage from the day here. Each event features a 10-player round-robin format, with a time control of 90 minutes for 40 moves, followed by an additional 30 minutes with a 30-second increment added from move one.

U.S. Senior Championship

Playing Black against GM Igor Novikov, Kaidanov entered the extremely sharp Botvinnik Variation, but did not have any chances to play for a win in a long theoretical line. The game was then drawn after the players traded down into an equal rook endgame, finishing shortly past the first time control. 

This gave Christiansen the chance to catch up, and he made the most of it as he managed to outfox GM James Tarjan in a slightly better bishop endgame, finding a study-like resource to win the game in brilliant style.

48...Ba1!! was a brilliant shot to win the bishop endgame, as White couldn’t stop the c-pawn in view of c2-c3 and Bb2 next. | 0-1, 52 moves

Christiansen came through with a clutch performance in the final round. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller

With the tie for first, Kaidanov and Christiansen will play a rapid playoff tiebreak tomorrow for the title, consisting of a two game 10+2 (delay) match, followed by an Armageddon Game in the event of another tie.

Tomorrow’s playoff will start at 2:50 PM CDT, with live coverage on uschesschamps.com

Standings after Round 9

U.S. Junior Championship

After yesterday’s loss to IM Christopher Yoo, GM Hans Niemann started the final round just half a point ahead of his nearest rivals GM Brandon Jacobson, IM Praveen Balakrishnan, and IM David Brodsky. Playing White against Jacobson, Niemann utilized a safe line in the English Opening and stood better for most of the game, though missed some chances to secure a large advantage.

Meanwhile, IMs Brodsky and Balakrishnan faced each other, both needing to win in order to possibly tie for first and force a playoff tiebreak. It was Balakrishnan who had the better position in the middlegame, as he built up a strong attack against White’s king, but Brodsky defended well, and the game eventually petered out into a draw by repetition, with neither player being able to push for a win.

Final position in Brodsky - Balakrishnan, as the two players repeated moves after a difficult struggle. | ½-½, 52 moves 

Once Brodsky and Balakrishnan agreed to a draw, Niemann forced a draw in an equal rook endgame against Jacobson, securing first place in the tournament and clinching the title.

The 2021 U.S. Junior Champion, GM Hans Niemann | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller

Final Standings

U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship

In the U.S. Girls’ Junior, IM Annie Wang just needed a draw in order to clinch the title, and was paired against her main rival at the end, WCM Ruiyang Yan, who going into the round was a full point behind. Annie prepared well for her opponent’s Ragozin Defense, essaying a drawish variation that left her with virtually zero losing chances. After trading into an endgame in which only White could play for the win, Ruiyang offered a draw in a slightly worse position, giving Annie clear first place in the event.

Black was not able to generate any winning chances, as White’s position was simply too solid. | ½-½, 36 moves

The 2021 U.S. Girls’ Junior Champion, IM Annie Wang | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller

Final Standings

The rapid playoff tiebreak between GM Gregory Kaidanov and GM Larry Christiansen will take place Monday, July 26th, starting at 2:50 PM CDT. Catch all the action live with host Sharon Carpenter and grandmaster commentators Yasser Seirawan and Cristian Chirila on uschesschamps.com and on the Saint Louis Chess Club’s YouTube and Twitch.tv channels.